A motion by Los Angeles city officials to enter into a head lease with the Hotel Cecil adjacent to Skid Row for a permanent housing program aimed at addressing homelessness was advanced Thursday at the Committee on Homelessness and of poverty.
The hotel, a historic building that has drawn public fascination with its sordid past, has inspired numerous film and television productions. American Horror Story: Hotel, Season 5 of the FX anthology series created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, was based in part on the Cecil Hotel. The building was also the subject of the 2021 Netflix documentary series Crime Scene: The Disappearance at Hotel Cecil, which explored the 2013 death of a 21-year-old Canadian student found in the property’s water tank. In 2017, Investigation Discovery made a three-part detective series titled Horror at Hotel Cecil.
The property was converted into an affordable housing complex last December, but six months later only 73 of the 600 available units are occupied. Council members Kevin de León and Bob Blumenfield’s recent motion calls on city agencies to provide a report outlining a program to provide permanent hotel accommodation through its voucher program.
The proposed master lease between the city and the hotel would include “different scenarios for providing homeless services and for managing and funding the units.” These scenarios could include providing residents with vouchers to subsidize their leases.
“This is an emergency,” Susie Shannon, policy director for Housing is a Human Right, told the City News Service. “And we can’t afford to keep vacant units here. We cannot afford to let them fall to ruin. We cannot afford to convert them to luxury.
The facility, which was acquired in 2016 by Simon Baron Development, was once set to become another trendy downtown LA conversion, but Covid struck. Although still owned by Simon Baron Development, it is now operated by the Skid Row Housing Trust, offering secure entry, community kitchen, laundry, recreation room and on-site case management services provided by SRHT Health and Social Services.
People are eligible for Cecil Hotel units if they earn between 30% and 60% of the region’s median income, but most units are designated for people earning 30% or less.
“Unlike other affordable and permanent supportive housing developments, this project has been funded and will operate on its own with private capital,” said Matt Baron, CEO of Simon Baron Development. “We are really excited to bring this solution to the growing number of people who are suffering on the streets and in need of housing.”
Public fascination with the Hotel Cecil and the mysteries that surround it was recently rekindled after the death of 21-year-old Elisa Lam, who was staying at the building in 2013, when it was renamed the Stay on Main hotel. . She was reported missing and, after a search, was eventually found in the rooftop water tank. But that was just the latest in a long line of site-related tragedies.
Built in 1924, the hotel cost $1.5 million and boasted a lavish marble lobby with stained glass windows, potted palms and alabaster statuary. But five years later, the country fell into the Great Depression.
The first documented suicide at the Cecil took place in 1927. One report claims there have been at least a dozen others over the years.
Legend has it that aspiring actress Elizabeth Short – aka The Black Dahlia – was drinking at Cecil’s bar shortly before her murder. In 1964, a resident of the hotel was found dead in her room. She had been sexually assaulted, stabbed, beaten and her room ransacked. The case was never solved.
Serial killer Richard Ramirez was staying at the Cecil when he carried out most, if not all, of his killing spree in the early 1980s. About a decade later, another serial killer named Jack Unterweger strangled and killed at least three prostitutes while in hiding at the hotel.
In 2017, the Los Angeles City Council designated the structure a Historic-Cultural Monument, calling it “a representative example of the early 20th century American hospitality industry” and “an example of Beaux-Arts style commercial architecture.” Arts”.
City News Service contributed to this story.